Sarah’s Journal2021-12-20T02:45:12+00:00

SARAH’S JOURNAL

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Last Journal Entry…December 20th!

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October 23, 1853

Swallow Barn by John Pendleton Kennedy

October 23rd

It is several days since I have written any; having spent all writing time in drawing. Am very much interested in copying a painted sketch of the reception of Commodore Perry by the Governor of Soo Chow. It belongs to Mr. Taylor – was painted and given to him by the Artist of the Squadron. It is a pretty picturesque scene and makes a very pretty pencil sketch. Willie likes it better than the copy and if it all looks well when finished, I shall give it to him. I think he will value and like to have it.

The 20th was Williams’ birthday. I only wish it could have been finished for a birthday gift. I gave him a cigar box, one I had marked for him in China.

Tomorrow will be our little Willie’s birthday; he will then complete his third year. Dear, blessed child, I hope he will live to see many, many birthdays and that his life may be a happy and good one. God grant that it may be so. The little fellow is beginning to look quite like his former self. This cold weather has had a good effect upon him, the red marks of the boil are fast disappearing from his forehead and the roses are back in his cheeks, also he has a fine appetite and is gaining his flesh and growing very much. He looks forward with a great deal of pleasure to tomorrow. I have told him I will play with him as much as he wants me to and tell him plenty of stories. Also, that I think we shall find some nice things for him.

For the last three or four days he has enjoyed playing “Mother, can I go pick a rose” very much. Always chooses to be “boiled”. Mary and I in consequence giving him a good long swing, the little fellow enjoys it. I only wish he had some half dozen children to play it with him. How glad I shall be when we live on shore and the little fellow can run, play and enjoy himself like other children. Here he is very much confined and there is scarce any variety. From my heart I trust we shall remain home next year I think we are all tired of this life and need some change. If it be but for one year.

Read last week “Swallow Barn” by Kennedy, an amusing tale or rather sketches of Virginia life, pleasant reading and well written.

November 5, 1853

Cape of Good Hope
Bayard Taylor’s Description of the Cape of Good Hope
Bayard Taylor’s Description of The Night Sky
Ancient and Modern India by William Cooke Taylor and PJ MacKenna
The Middle Kingdom by S. Wells Williams
The Nile Boat by W.H. Bartlett
Casa Guidi Windows by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Sonnets From The Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

November 5th

This morning at noon found us some miles west of the Cape of Good Hope. Last year and year before had a good view, perfectly clear and distinct. This morning there were clouds hanging over the land. Last year our view of Table Rock was very fine. It looked more like an artificial fortification; the upper outline being perfectly square and smooth.

We are now looking forward to spending Christmas at home. Glad I shall be to get there, so heartily tired and weary I am of this sea life. I feel as if it would be an utter impossibility to undertake the next voyage of the “Sea Serpent”. I trust Williams feels the same.

I think Williams will touch at St. Helena. He does not say positively but I think he will. It will be a delightful interruption to our long voyage.

For the last four days we have had many Albatrosses and Cape Penguins flying round the ship. Their company was and is very pleasant. I was glad to see them again. It may be the last time.

Our weather for some time has been perfect, especially the last four or five days, clear and just cool enough to be pleasant. We sit with the windows, doors and skylights open. The nights are magnificent and have a crescent moon. Last night we enjoyed a sign one seldom sees, the moon, Jupiter and Venus close together and forming a perfect angle thus; all shining with the utmost brilliancy. At first, we could only get a partial view as we were sailing directly towards the direction in which they were. Mr. Taylor went forward and soon returned with such a glowing account that Williams ordered the man to steer a little to the northward for a moment so that we all could have a view. It was glorious, but all too short. I was not half satisfied when the ship returned to her course. I also saw the Cross again.

Since I last wrote in this, have finished the history of India. The three works on India that I have read have vastly improved my knowledge of that country – it really seems quite familiar. Next week I hope to commence “The Middle Kingdom”, an extensive work on China by S. Wells Williams, long a resident of that country. It belongs to Mr. Taylor. Mr. Contee read it when we first left China and says that it is very dry, but his opinion does not deter me. I have made three visits to China and know just next to nothing of the country. I am determined to know something even to wading through the “Middle Kingdom”, even if it be “dry as dust” as Carlyle would say. Am reading, and have nearly finished, a work on Egypt called “The Nile Boat or, Glimpses of the Land of Egypt” by W. H. Bartlett. Find it very interesting. It is an elegant work illustrated by many elegant engravings. Mr. Parkman handed it to me the other day, thinking it would please me.

I finished my Soo Chow drawing a few days ago. It looks very pretty and picturesque. Gave it to Williams.

Our party continues a very pleasant little one. There is a great deal of reading going on and a good deal of conversation, particularly during meals and walks on deck. I walk generally with Williams or Mr. Taylor and walk with Mr. Taylor every day more or less. I do really enjoy walking with him; his conversation is so interesting and pleasant and he is so willing to describe and talk of all that he has seen.

Williams startled me very much the other day. He came into the Cabin and asked me to look at his eye. It was filled with matter and looking very much inflamed; a spark from his cigar had flown into his eye a day or two before and caused the inflammation. He bathes his eye frequently with rum and water and I immediately made him a shade. Today it is much better. The cool weather does wonders for our Willie; he looks plump and rosy again and is as good as can be all day long; is full of fun and frolic.

Yesterday had rather an unpleasant time with Mary. She had been very impudent and I spoke to her as kindly as I could to put her on her guard and gave her, with Williams’ approval, a little advice, but she received the whole with a very unbecoming and angry spirit. I dreaded speaking but felt that it was my duty as she was under my care. Ever since she has acted and looked like one who has been deeply injured. This is all very disagreeable and makes me wish the voyage over.

Read a few days ago, a volume of poems by E. Barrett Browning; liked the poem titled “Casa Guidi Windows” very much. It is very finely written, parts of it read like the very gushings of her heart. “Sonnets from the Portuguese” is beautiful, it is her own heart’s history. The title with which she sends it forth to the world is no disguise to those who know her history. I cannot understand how a person, particularly a delicate minded female, can give her best, dearest and most private feelings to the world. I should think she would treasure them up and guard them well from the world’s eye. However, it is pleasant for her readers and I am content if she is.

November 6, 1853

November 6th

Another perfect glorious bright day and a wind that has averaged between 11 and 12 knots since yesterday noon. A fine beginning for our Atlantic part of the voyage. Oh! that it may last and carry us home very, very soon.

There are three letters that I might write but I feel no disposition to write but am determined under making an effort now. I only wish they were all written. Sometimes the spirit of writing comes over me and I love to write, then again I feel a perfect disinclination to touch a pen and lately I have not felt even the slightest wish to write in this book and do not now, but keep it up I will. Besides, I want this book to last me till I can procure another.

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